While Bynum excels, Bryant sits in loss to Memphis

As Andrew Bynum’s offense keeps taking off for the Lakers, they are still trying to keep Kobe Bryant potent — along with the defense that has been strong almost all season.

Bryant wound up in the unfamiliar role of benchwarmer for part of the final stretch Sunday night against Memphis, which beat the Lakers 102-96 at Staples Center. Bryant had just 18 points, while Bynum scored 30.

“If you guys are looking for a story, I’m not going to give you one,” Bryant told reporters afterward. “I can’t sit here and criticize his (coach Mike Brown’s) decisions. I’m not leading this ballclub. That’s not something I can afford to do. I have to have his back.

“I’ve had his back the whole season. I can’t start doing something crazy now. It makes no sense.”

Brown downplayed his decision to play Metta World Peace in Bryant’s place for that period of time. Bryant returned to the game with 1:51 left and the Lakers down 98-89.

“I wanted to make a sub at that time, and so I did,” Brown said.

The Lakers will try to get back on track Tuesday at Golden State.

Brown’s kids win state titles
   –Coach Mike Brown headed up to Sacramento after practice Saturday to watch son Elijah help Santa Ana Mater Dei High to a state basketball championship. Nirra Fields, whom the Browns became guardians for last season, also won a state championship in girls basketball with Mater Dei.

   –Derek Fisher hasn’t made a big splash in Oklahoma City yet, but he has been playing consistent minutes for the Thunder, who will visit the Lakers on Thursday in what promises to be an emotional night. Fisher was traded to Houston by the Lakers at the trade deadline, then bought out his contract with the Rockets and signed with the Thunder.

QUOTE TO NOTE: “I’ve been playing well, but I’ve been in cities like Cleveland, Milwaukee and Minnesota, which don’t get too much coverage.” — Lakers guard Ramon Sessions.

   –F Pau Gasol is in an adjustment season, with center Andrew Bynum emerging as a primary post-up option on offense for the Lakers. Gasol doesn’t get to the post as consistently and lately has been putting up subpar shooting numbers. After going 5 for 14 on Friday night against Portland, Gasol shot 4 for 15 on Sunday night against Memphis.

   –G Ramon Sessions is giving the offense a new spark via his ability to get into the paint and draw fouls. Sessions got eight free-throw attempts, making them all, in the Lakers’ loss to Memphis on Sunday night. Derek Fisher and Steve Blake rarely got to the foul line earlier this season.

   –G Steve Blake has historically been a dependable and productive 3-point shooter, and the Lakers are expecting that from him even as he moves back to the second unit. Blake made a 3-pointer early in the fourth quarter Sunday night against Memphis, but it was just his second in the past six games.

   No injuries.

   –Point guard Ramon Sessions
   –Shooting guard Kobe Bryant
   –Small forward Metta World Peace
   –Power forward Pau Gasol
   –Center Andrew Bynum

   –Guard Steve Blake
   –Forward Matt Barnes
   –Forward Josh McRoberts
   –Forward Troy Murphy